The National Guard, FEMA and Hartford HealthCare teamed up on Monday to bring doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to Bridgeport.
“I tried to make a couple of appointments a couple other places, but I wasn’t successful, and now they told me about this one,” said Chris Ramos of Bridgeport.
He was a walkup patient to the clinic Monday and was one of nearly 200 people who also either walked up or had an appointment for the nation’s first FEMA vaccine van, launched in Connecticut.
It will visit 17 locations to host 60 clinics between now and the end of May, in many locations with higher Black and brown populations.
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“There’s no hesitancy, there’s no resistance or reluctance that can’t be overcome. It’s a problem of access, it’s a problem of ample opportunity,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “This van is equity in action.”
There are plans for 30 vans across the country and all expenses will be covered by FEMA. Blumenthal says they've asked for a second van for the state.
Gov. Ned Lamont says they used CDC’s socially vulnerable index to determine where vaccine help was needed. It measures things like transportation, poverty and housing to determine risk.
“This is a small piece of a much larger puzzle to make sure we’re meeting people where they are,” Rep. Jahana Hayes says.
Eight of Connecticut’s largest cities are scheduled for the van including Hartford, which is second to last in the state for vaccinating residents. Just 15% of residents have received the first dose.
“We are trying to provide additional support to Hartford to get them caught up. The FEMA unit will be there in a couple of weeks. We also plan to deploy additional mobile vans that will be setting up to Hartford,” said Josh Geballe, COO of Connecticut.
It will be there for four days starting April 16. New Haven, which has 20% vaccinated, will also have the van for four days. The first visit follows Bridgeport, April 8-9 on the New Haven Green.
“If we can get the most underserved folks, if we can get them an extra ability to get vaccinated, get that one shot in the arm, that’s our goal here,” said Rick Fontana, director of emergency operations for New Haven.
He says the city will model Bridgeport with Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and a number of walkup appointments set aside. But they have a plan for grassroots work to register New Haven residents.
They will begin walking the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods on Saturday in an effort to make sure residents have access.